IT executives ‘make ideal CEOs’


18 December 2002 The stereotypical view of IT professionals as lacking social skills and broad strategic instincts has been challenged by a study that suggests they are perfectly suited to the role of CEO.

Senior IT staff have a strong ‘cross-business view’, come into their own in reducing organisational complexity and are not hamstrung by allegiance to a particular business function, according to a survey by researchers at Santa Clara University, California.

The report’s co-authors, Peter DeLisi and Ron Danielson, concluded that those attributes made IT professionals closer to sharing the CEO’s perspective than most other executives in an organisation.

The researchers interviewed 339 mostly California-based mid-ranking and executive-level IT professionals at more than 200 organisations in the public and private sector. They used the so-called InQ psychology test, which categorises thinking styles according to how people process information.

Each response is linked to five category areas: ‘synthesists’ are able to find relationships in things that, to others, have no apparent connection; ‘idealists’ are future-oriented and take a broad, holistic view of things; ‘pragmatists’ are flexible and adaptive and thrive on action; ‘analysts’ prefer predictability and rationality and are logical, structured and prescriptive; and ‘realists’ base their conclusions on what they can see and hear.

The study revealed that most IT professionals scored well in the idealist and pragmatist categories, but less well in the analyst category. These patterns indicate that IT professionals are more capable of high-level strategic thinking and less concerned with technical details than has been assumed, said the report.

Its findings come at a time when many IT directors feel worried about the future, amid a recruitment slowdown and evidence that suppliers are responding to the deepening crisis in the IT industry by bypassing them and targeting finance directors and lines of business executives to an unprecedented extent.

For a special report on the future role of the IT director, see the January 2003 issue of Information Age magazine.

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Ben Rossi

Ben was Vitesse Media's editorial director, leading content creation and editorial strategy across all Vitesse products, including its market-leading B2B and consumer magazines, websites, research and...

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